This story is part of our Mixed-Faith Marriage series, exploring the journeys and insights of active Latter-day Saint women married to men who are not members of the Church or who have left the Church. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.
By Anonymous, Minnesota, USA
My husband and I have been married for nine years. The Church was extremely important to him when we were dating and engaged, and during the first few years of our marriage. He loved serving in the church, attending the temple, and especially had a deep testimony of the importance of reading your scriptures regularly and paying tithing. I loved him for the spiritual man he was, the loving companion he was to me, the way he honored his priesthood, and the fact that he was my best friend.
As time progressed, and we met with some deep trials, my husband started to question whether or not God cared about him. Eventually he came to the conclusion that Heavenly Father didn’t know him or love him. That led to complacency in his callings, scripture study, temple, tithing, prayer, and he decided to question everything he had taught during his two year mission. Before I knew it, he had dug deep into online sources about church history, and was certain based upon what he read that Joseph Smith was a fraud and the Church couldn’t be true.
When he shared this with me, we were on a date night and trying to enjoy dinner. I remember staring at my food, trying to figure out how to move forward from here, and was deeply worried about how this would affect our two boys, ages 4 and 7. He said he felt it was important to continue to attend church for their sake, and wanted to be able to baptize our son when he turned 8 in a few months. That decision lasted until a couple weeks after our son was baptized. While it was a good experience for my husband, he continued to be caught up in conversations within online forums and listening to podcasts from other non-believers, and his lack of belief was turning into outright resentment. My husband and I agreed the best thing for him to do was to step away from attending church, because going only aggravated his negative emotions and his negative feelings were a continual wedge in our marriage, driving us apart.
I let my husband know that for a time, I was trying to figure out how I could stay married to someone that didn’t believe in the gospel and had so much animosity towards something that was central to my entire identity. I felt like a fish out of water, and honestly felt betrayed. I didn’t sign up for this. Now my dream of an eternal family was in jeopardy. For months, I had a really hard time even looking him in the eye and would often cry myself to sleep.
A year prior to this, we had lost a little boy at 19 weeks gestation, after an incredibly challenging pregnancy. I had physically suffered a great deal to that point in the pregnancy as my body worked to bring this little boy into our family. When we found out at my 19 week appointment that there was no heartbeat, a heart we had just seen beating strong and healthy less than two weeks prior, I was devastated. I wondered why Heavenly Father would allow me to physically and emotionally suffer so much during my pregnancy only to deprive me of the joy of being able to hold my sweet baby in my arms and raise him in our family. Through our early mourning period, I found a deep sense of hope and faith in the Atonement as well as the promise of our eternal family. Now that my husband no longer believed, I felt that hope slip away and found myself mourning the loss of our little boy all over again, as well as the loss of the husband I thought I had married.
After attending professional counseling, I decided that leaving my husband because he no longer believed wasn’t the right solution. We had more to our relationship than just our beliefs, and if I worked at it and he was willing to work at it, we could repair and rebuild our marriage. We agreed to the following:
- He wouldn’t interfere or undermine my efforts to raise the boys in the gospel. When they were of the right age, and had difficult questions, we would answer them together.
- We would focus on spending time together in ways that allowed us to reconnect and have fun. Date nights could no longer be sitting in front of a movie screen. We needed to engage with each other and basically court each other again.
- He would try to find a set of beliefs to anchor himself to, whether that was organized religion or not. He realized he needed something to hold on to and believe in, so he decided to try to come to know and believe in Jesus Christ, allowing Christ to still be the center of our home.
While there is less contention now in our relationship, and we’ve found a new stride, things still aren’t perfect. However, I have been able to rebuild my love for him and see him for the man that he truly is. I’ve learned that talking about charity in a marriage is one thing, but to have to really exercise it much more difficult than I realized. I’m learning how to have patience, how to truly love someone where they are vs. holding them to my personal expectations, and that hope in Jesus Christ is something we can always hold on to. I don’t know how our story will end, but I have hope. And our children still have a loving home that is a safe place from the world.